45-year-old self-made millionaire shares his 4 ‘cheat codes’ to help skyrocket your wealth

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In 2001, at 22 years old, I moved out of my mom’s basement in Atlanta and into a sublet in the housing projects of Manhattan.

I got a job as a technical support operator making $45,000 a year. When I told my friends and family that I was going to get rich off real estate investing, they laughed at me.

But I proved everyone wrong. I invested a large chunk of my 9-to-5 earnings into real estate. Now, at 45, I’m a self-made millionaire with 366 units in my property portfolio. I earned my first million through unconventional investing methods that took advantage of a strong real estate market.

Here are four cheat codes that can skyrocket your wealth:

1. ‘Float’ from mortgage to mortgage.

Residential mortgages have some of the lowest down payment requirements and interest rates.

You must live in a property for the first year of ownership to keep the residential mortgage. After that, you often don’t need to refinance to turn your home into a rental.

So, you could buy a single-family or multi-family home (up to four units each year) with a residential mortgage and a 3.5% to 5% down payment, then “float” to a new primary residence.

This creates a breadcrumb trail of properties — with inexpensive mortgages — that you can rent out to cover all of your expenses, or even receive cash flow.

If you qualify for a USDA loan, a type of mortgage for low- or moderate-income homebuyers in eligible rural areas, or a VA loan, which is available to service members, veterans and their spouses, you could get up to 100% financing.

2. ‘Shift’ from room to room.

If you have at least two units, you can maximize your cash flow with short-term rentals by “shifting” from unit to unit, based on vacancy.

List all your units, even the one you live in, on Airbnb, VRBO and other rental platforms. Create a flexible lifestyle and have a “go-bag” of your must-have items so you can “shift” between your short-term rentals based on wherever the vacancy is that night. 

A common way to get started is to rent out a spare room in your house, or to park a camper or RV in the driveway as a short-term rental option for guests (or for yourself when your primary unit is booked).

3. Achieve zero housing.

In 2022, the average renter put 30% of their income towards rent. If you get rid of this expense, you can significantly increase your wealth.

Set a goal to have your housing pay for itself. For example, you could take on a roommate, or rent out your basement as storage space, or rent out a parking space to a neighbor, or use your fenced yard as a dog run.

Use the financial boost to cover your mortgage or invest in cash-generating properties.

4. Learn from your landlord.

If you don’t have the money to buy real estate, ask your landlord if you can sublease your current rental to a higher-paying tenant as a short-term or mid-term rental, then split the proceeds.

Or, if your landlord is looking for a property manager, partner with them to manage their vacancy as a short-term rental in exchange for a portion of the proceeds. If you already have a strong relationship, you may not need previous management experience to work together.

Learning the ropes before you buy can help you be better prepared for life as a landlord. This networking can also lead to future partnership opportunities, like splitting a property investment.

Alan Corey is a podcaster and real estate entrepreneur. He co-founded House Money Media, a company dedicated to launching first-generation real estate investors, and is the author of “House FIRE: How to Be a Red-Hot Real Estate Millionaire With a Wealth of Time and Money to Burn.” Follow him on Twitter.

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